A fumbling miss, a gentleman spy, and some rather sweet romance complicated by misunderstandings, polite behavior, and enigmatic looks steer this genteel YA romance. Fans of Jane Austen and YA historical fiction will enjoy this love story which uses the strictures of society to let romance blossom sedately.
Juliana Telford is not your average nineteenth-century young lady. She’s much more interested in researching ladybugs than marriage, fashionable dresses, or dances. So when her father sends her to London for a season, she’s determined not to form any attachments. Instead, she plans to secretly publish their research.
Spencer Northam is not the average young gentleman of leisure he appears. He is actually a spy for the War Office, and is more focused on acing his first mission than meeting eligible ladies. Fortunately, Juliana feels the same, and they agree to pretend to fall for each other. Spencer can finally focus, until he is tasked with observing Juliana’s traveling companions . . . and Juliana herself.
The plot is rather predictable – Jane Austen comparisons give you a fairly good play book for how this story will go down. The characters are equally predictable. It won’t take readers long to spot the good guys and the villains in this work. The pleasure is in the simplicity. You feel warm and fuzzy when the polite and kind people get what they want and when the scheming jerks get their just desserts as well. This isn’t a book for everyone, and it may not interest the average high school reader, but those closet romantics of the YA world will find plenty to sigh, both longingly and contentedly, about in this romp through high society and courtship rituals. I do have to warn readers that Julianna, the heroine, initially comes across as a bit of a simpering ninny. I really thought this was going to be a book that required me to tolerate the strange and eccentric humor I usually equate with the steampunk genre, but, happily, it evens out after a few chapters. Julianna proved to be smarter and more resourceful that I anticipated. While Spencer is no Mr. Darcy, he is certain to be the hero of many a young gal’s dreams, and the pairing of Julianna and Spencer is quite satisfying. While my final impression was one of contentment and I felt spurred to read another Jane Austen inspired YA right after I put this one down, some readers will see this as a rather muted version of several popular regency romances. I personally think that is a good thing, but if that isn’t your genre, or if you were reading romances for the racey bits, you might be disappointed by this sure-to-be-momma-approved, well behaved read. Language and situations are appropriate for all ages, but interest level is high school and beyond.
I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.